Women Must Become Familiar With Their Breasts, Says Canadian Cancer Society

by Gopalan on Sep 28 2007 12:27 PM

The Canadian Cancer Society is changing its recommendations to women about monitoring themselves for breast cancer.

The organization is no longer insisting on routine breast self-examinations but is urging women to know their own breasts. The new message is that women don't need to use a specific technique or schedule for this kind of breast self-examination.

Charlene Krepiakevich, vice president of marketing and communications, said, 'The body of evidence shows that teaching women how to perform regular BSE is not effective in finding cancer, and may actually do more harm than good.

'While it's important for women to look and feel for any changes in their breasts, they don't need to follow a particular technique or schedule. Many women have found their own cancers, and being aware of what is normal for them is an important part of this.'

Krepiakevich pointed out most lumps were not cancer, but recommended that women who noticed changes in their breasts report those changes to their doctor.

The Canadian Cancer Society recommends the following guidelines:

- Women between the ages of 50 to 69 have a mammogram every two years.
- If you are between the ages of 40 and 49, discuss your risk of breast cancer and the benefits and risks of mammography with your doctor.
- If you are 70 or older, talk to your doctor about a screening program for you.
- Have a clinical breast examination by a trained health professional at least every two years if you are over the age of 40.
- Get to know your breasts. Talk to your doctors about any changes.

In October, observed as the Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Canadian Cancer Society will be distributing thousands of key chains in certain regions of the nation in an attempt to spread awareness.

The Society will trade more than 10,000 'Thingamaboob' key chains for donations toward breast cancer research, prevention, and support programs. Each key chain features different sized balls that represent lumps, both healthy and irregular, that women may feel in their breasts.

'Although prevention of breast cancer, and all cancers, is our ultimate hope and goal, we think Thingamaboobs will help women wrap their head-and hands-around what to look for,' said Krepiakevich.

Online 'Boob-a-grams' are now also available on the Society's website ( as a fun and upbeat way to send an e-mail to encourage women to get a mammogram.

An estimated 22,300 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer across Canada this year and about 5,300 will die from it.

According to cancer statistics released in April, breast cancer death rates among women have fallen by 25 per cent since 1986 and more women are living longer after a diagnosis of breast cancer.

Current evidence shows that organized screening with mammography and clinical breast examination - the most reliable methods of finding breast cancer - have contributed to the declining death rates.

'In addition to health-first public policies, early detection and taking part in organized breast screening programs saves lives,' said Krepiakevich.

'We know screening works. Barriers to screening must continue to be identified and overcome. If more women are screened, more will survive. It's that simple.'

Up to 50 per cent of cancers are preventable. Women can reduce their breast cancer risk by eating a healthy diet, being physically active, maintaining a healthy body weight, minimizing alcohol consumption and avoiding non-essential hormones.